Beware! Trespassers may be transformed into toads…but you can still marvel from a distance.
This whimsical ‘Witch House’ brings storybook imagination to life through flawless attention to detail. Wandering past this stretch of the Beverly Hills neighborhood and stumbling upon this surreal architectural fantasy, you might just think you’ve accidentally landed up in Disneyland. It’s also been the source of numerous accidents since almost impossible to drive past this eccentric dwelling without doing a double take. The exaggerated lines of this home are starkly contrasted with the traditional structures of its neighbors and more reflective of the Gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel than anything you’ll find in an architectural textbook.
While it may seem like you’ll be lured in by a mysterious resident with a suspicious wart and broom collection, it is in fact the home of a real estate agent Michael J. Libow. He has been lovingly restoring this mind-boggling eyesore to its perfectly decrepit state over the last two decades. Libow is also partly responsible for making it Landmark #8 for the City of Beverly Hills in 2013, so it’s here to stay. From the gnarled trees, a half-eaten pumpkin, hand-crafted “No Trespassing” sign, organic lines of the carpentry and the wooden bridge crossing a mystical moat with a ceramic glass base, to the sunken roof, the house is every witch’s dream abode.
If it looks like something out of a movie set, that’s probably because it is—or was. Its history began in 1920, where it served as an office and dressing room on the Willat Studios lot in Culver City, California. When the studio shut down, producer Ward Lascelle, spared it from demolition and moved it to Walden Drive in Beverly Hills around 1924, where it now serves as a personal residence.
It’s had its fair share of cameos (you may recognize it from the silent film Hansel and Gretel (1923) and Clueless) since it was originally designed as a multi-purpose set by Harry Oliver, an art director at Willat studios. Oliver went on to play a significant role in the architectural Storybook style.
The Spadena family were the first residents of the 3,500 square feet home, which is why the house is sometimes referred to as ‘The Spadena House’. After changing hands a few times, Libow took a chance on the property when it hit the market again in the 90s. After growing up in the neighborhood and becoming a local real estate agent, with a burgeoning fascination with architecture, he saw the opportunity to hold onto—and live in—a little slice of fantastical history. Inspired by Gaudi’s design sensibility, he went on to ensure the inside matched the fascinating exterior.
Residents still flock to the location every Halloween and most years the owner is more than happy to indulge in the spooky festivities by handing out treats.
The Witch House, 516 Walden Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, United States
[Featured Image: Lori Branham]